“It has been a privilege” – the experiences of a chief registrar
Date: 18 June 2020
The chief registrar programme is the Royal College of Physician's flagship work-based leadership programme for senior doctors in training. The programme, which develops clinical leaders of the future, is still very much in its infancy. Chief registrars across the country, like Medway’s own Dr Aaisha Saqib, are very much trailblazers for this role- helping to shape it for the doctors who will follow them in the future.
Anyone who has met or had the pleasure to work with Aaisha cannot fail to be won over by her compassion and her commitment to providing the very best care for her patients. For her, the decision to take up the chief registrar role at Medway was about much more than career development, it was personal: “I chose to return to Medway as a chief registrar in 2019 after having done my core medical training here from 2013-2016. During that time I underwent a very stressful phase in my life. I had a 27-week premature baby girl who was looked after at Medway’s amazing Oliver Fisher Neonatal Unit (OFNU).
“I cannot forget that time in my life, my daughter was admitted for three months in neonatal intensive care unit. She received excellent care from doctors and nurses at OFNU, for which I feel indebted to this trust. My daughter continues to do very well. The team I was working with at the time were exceptionally kind to me and I had great support from my supervisor then. After leaving Medway for my higher specialist training, I had always wanted to come back to be able to do something meaningful for the trust.”
With her desire to give something back to the hospital that had saved her daughter’s life, Medway was never too far from her mind and when the chief registrar post was advertised, she didn’t hesitate: “ I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, even though it meant pausing my training in South London for a year.
“The role placed me in a privileged position in this organisation. It gave me an opportunity to lead change programmes and really make a difference to the care provided to our patients. I simply could not turn it down!”.
Aaisha didn’t waste any time upon re-joining Medway and became involved in several quality improvement projects, such as setting up the hospital at night service, improving medical handovers and designing an induction booklet for international doctors and many more: “Working on all these projects gave me an opportunity to work closely with trust executive teams and some senior consultants across various specialities. And it has been an honour to be able to make so many friends and learn from everyone that I have worked with”.
“Most importantly, I feel this role helped me champion junior doctors’ interests in front of executive teams. I have become a key point of contact for trainees at the trust to discuss various issues and improvement initiatives which has been a privilege and, in all honesty, the most enjoyable part of my job”.
Being a mentor and providing support for her colleagues is something that Aaisha takes extremely seriously and she found a rather unique way of improving their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic: “The pandemic has been a really difficult time for all NHS staff and I, alongside my colleagues Dr Tara Rampal, Alex Hayes and Dr Edyta McCullum, wanted to try and do something to make their lives that little bit easier”.
The team came up with the idea of a Staff Wellbeing Hub, an area of peace and tranquillity, to provide a brief respite for staff during their daily battle against the pandemic. It’s fair to say the team got quite involved: “We were spending our weekends designing the layout, running surveys, shopping for items for the hub, lifting plant pots and hoovering to get it ready in time!
“Seeing my colleagues enjoying the space has really made the hard work all worthwhile. I hope it is an area they will continue to enjoy after COVID-19 and for many years to come”
The chief registrar role has been an incredibly valuable experience for Aaisha, giving her skills and knowledge that will stay with her for the rest of her career: “Over the last year I have learned a lot about change management and the various factors influencing it. I have now developed a better understanding of, not just myself, but also how various personalities influence an organisation and its momentum towards improving quality of care it provides not only to its patients but also its employees”
“This journey has made me appreciate my own skills and helped me bring my best traits to the use of an organisation. Throughout the year I have learned exactly how systems work and how to get things done in the NHS. It has been challenging but also the most satisfying year in my career so far. I feel even more proud to have played my role in helping build bridges between doctors and seniors NHS managers.”
“I have learned how important it is to empower our staff on the ground to share their ideas and thoughts. Developing into the role of a senior leader I am going to ensure I embrace enthusiasm and harness the interest from people who care and provide them with mentoring opportunities that I was lucky enough to have from the RCP and locally by my mentors, senior consultants and members of the Trust executive team. I have learnt the importance of valuing every team member and the need to listen to everyone.”
And what advice would Aaisha give to leaders of the future looking to follow in her footsteps? “We need to work together as one team to be able to find innovative solutions to challenges and work through problems together. It is up to us – as future consultants – to turn the NHS around while we have the opportunity”.
“If you’re interested in leadership and management, and you care about making real change in the NHS, become a chief registrar. As someone once said, almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: The future can be better than the present and I have the power to make it so!
If you are interested in finding out more about the chief registrar programme, please visit www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/chief-registrar-programme
Chief registrars across the country, like Medway’s own Dr Aaisha Saqib, are very much trailblazers for this role- helping to shape it for the doctors who will follow them in the future.